Young people show that they can make a big difference—right now—as they live out their faith in their daily lives.
Noah Lukasek, a member at St. John, Maribel, Wis., had a Christmas wish, and he made it come true.
“I thought how often I take my health for granted,” explains Noah, “and thought of the kids who couldn’t be at home with their families at Christmas. I wanted just to give them a smile.”
That led Noah to start painting . . . and painting . . . and painting. By April, Noah painted eight landscapes that he framed and auctioned off on Facebook. He collected $2,100 that he then used to buy items for children at a hospital in Green Bay, Wis.
“I was blown away by the amount I raised and how generous people were,” says Noah, now a junior at Manitowoc Lutheran High School, Manitowoc, Wis. “I was truly amazed at the support I received for the fundraiser. It was such a fun experience going to Hobby Lobby and Walmart and filling cart after cart of toys, crafts, stuffed animals, and everything in between. Dropping the donation off was the coolest part of the fundraiser—to see directly the impact I was making. It was so cool to see the nurses’ faces light up and tell me how much the kids were going to love it.”
It all began with a club formed by two third-grade students at Christ the Lord, Brookfield, Wis. Ella Schaefer and Eliza Shiels, now in seventh grade, created their club, Bookworms Baking, to read and discuss books, write letters to shut-ins, and bake for people who are having a hard time or need help. Their theme passage is Matthew 25:35, “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink.”
Each spring the girls also host a bake sale and lemonade stand during a neighborhood rummage sale and donate the proceeds to a local charity. This May they donated the money collected to New Beginnings—A Home for Mothers, a WELS-affiliated ministry that provides housing, parenting resources, and a caring Christian environment for mothers as they raise their children.
“Sometimes kids think that they can’t share their faith like God tells them to because they’re just kids,” says Ella. “But we shouldn’t let anyone look down on us because we’re young. Bookworms Baking is my way of showing my light and sharing my faith with the world.”
Eliza notes, “I have been blessed with so many things in life, but the most important thing is my faith. I can’t imagine where I’d be in life without Christ, and I want others to know Jesus. Through our Bookworms Baking bake sales, I’m able to share Christ with others and through serving, I feel closer to Christ.”
“I attended the University of Minnesota for my freshman year of college and got one of my first tastes of how hard it is to be a next generation Christian in the world today,” says Ezra. “I really struggled, and it wasn’t until I found a group of Christian friends who pushed me to be in the Word and part of a Christian community that I started to take my relationship with Jesus seriously.”
Ezra ultimately transferred to Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn., to be a pastor so he could encourage others to dig deeper into God’s Word and grow in Christian community. He also became involved with the high school ministry at his home church, NorthCross, Lakeville, Minn.
“As we worked with them, we saw teens really grow in their relationship with Jesus and desire to grow relationships with other Christians in the next generation,” explains Ezra. “Our next thought was how can we show teenagers that they belong to something bigger, that they have a bigger family than what they see in their church. It was with this in mind that we started to dream about uniting all the churches in the metro area for one big night.”
That led to hosting a youth night for all the WELS/Evangelical Lutheran Synod churches in the Twin Cities area. The first of these events was held in January 2022.
“My main role was preparing and organizing the next generation of volunteers for this night,” explains Ezra. “We wanted it to be heavily run by the next generation. . . . I was honored and humbled to see the next generation step up and lead people to Jesus.”
Ezra is now serving on the WELS Commission on Discipleship’s Youth Night Committee, which is organizing resources so other congregations can host area-wide youth nights. He and his sister, Chloe, and some college friends also have toured the country offering one-night worship and praise opportunities for young people at other WELS congregations. Known as Next Gen, Ezra says the group “wants to empower the next generation to continue to be the church and bring many young people together in the name of Jesus.”
As Ezra notes, “The next generation is filled with challenges from every side. In a world where their shaky individual truth is everything, we are offering solid ultimate truth. Our goal is to take the timeless truths of God and explain them in a timely way.”
Author: Nicole Balza
Volume 109, Number 08
Issue: August 2022